Kirk Douglas plays boxer Midge Kelly, in tough, gritty drama Champion that opens as he steps into the ring to defend his world title and then tells his rise to fame through flashback. A drifter with his brother Connie (Arthur Kennedy), his only way out of the poverty of the Depression is to climb into the ring, under the guidance of trainer Tommy Haley (Paul Stewart).
But as he rises to the top, he tramples on everyone who’s helped him, from Haley to his first wife Emma (Ruth Roman), getting mixed up with the mob and, dangerously, Palmer Harris (Lola Albright), the wife of his new manager. His ruthlessness sees him eventually retain his title, but at a terrible cost.
Director Mark Robson drew an Oscar-nominated performance from Douglas that was to be his stepping stone to stardom, while Carl Foreman’s script, based on a story by Ring Lardner, America’s poet laureate of the sport, is reminiscent of the equally tough Raging Bull.
USA / Stanley Kramer / 99 minutes / 1949 black and white
Writer: Carl Foreman / Story: Ring Lardner / Cinematography: Franz Planer / Music: Dimitri Tiomkin / Director: Mark Robson
Cast: Kirk Douglas, Arthur Kennedy, Marilyn Maxwell, Paul Stewart, Ruth Roman, Lola Albright, Luis Van Rooten
Academy Award Nominations: Carl Foreman, Franz Planer, Dmitri Tiomkin, Kirk Douglas, Arthur Kennedy